New twist in Covid relief fraud case: Third fraudster is on the run

A third member of a California fraud ring accused of stealing more than $18 million in Covid-19 relief loans has gone on the run, the FBI said Thursday. 

Tamara Dadyan, 42, was supposed to report to prison on Jan. 28 to start serving a 10-year sentence, but she never showed up, and her whereabouts are unknown. 

“She is now considered a fugitive,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told NBC News.

Dadyan’s lawyer, Joseph Benincasa, said he was in the dark over her whereabouts.

“I don’t know where the heck she is,” Benincasa said. “I have not had contact with her.” 

Benincasa said he last spoke to Dadyan on Jan. 28 when she came to his office. He said he believed at the time that she was heading downtown to turn herself in.

Then “I got a call from the federal government asking, ‘Where is she?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know,’” Benincasa recalled. 

Dadyan’s disappearance marks the latest twist in the sensational Covid fraud case.

The alleged leader of the crime ring, Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and his wife, Marietta Terabelian, 37, went on the run last summer while awaiting sentencing for their roles in the scheme.

Federal authorities believe the couple cut off their ankle monitoring bracelets and fled their home after getting convicted in June. Ayvazyan, who is Dadyan’s brother-in-law, was sentenced in absentia in November to 17 years in prison. His wife was sentenced to six years.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to the couple’s arrest.

A total of eight people were accused of using fake or stolen identities to submit fraudulent applications to receive about 150 Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Covid relief loans. They used the stolen money for down payments on luxury homes and to buy such items as gold coins, diamonds and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

All eight have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Dadyan’s husband, Artur Ayvazyan, was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the scheme. He’s locked up at a federal prison in Los Angeles, records show.

Dadyan, a Los Angeles real estate broker, was indicted in November 2020 on 23 counts, including bank and wire fraud. She pleaded guilty in June.

At Dadyan’s sentencing in December, prosecutors asked the judge to have her taken into custody immediately, saying “she had every incentive to flee,” according to the Los Angeles Times. But the judge let her remain free, the Times reported. 

Dadyan appealed her sentence, but it was denied. 

Her lawyer said he assumed she was wearing her ankle bracelet when she was in his office at the end of January. But “I’ve never looked at someone’s ankle to check,” Benincasa said.